Second week in Tjuntjuntjara – More country and taking stock

After the first week of big things happening one day after the next, the second week has been more about slowing down and taking stock.

A few things had been getting me down.

Even though the role I’m effectively standing in for is fairly clearly defined, my role as a stand in for that person is not. That has left me scratching around for work to do at times which is not a nice feeling. To not have work when you’re supposed to be working feels worse that not having a job at all.

And my mind was naturally inclining towards all the problems here in the community and trying to come to grips with them. The place looks like a dump, hygiene is really poor, as is diet and there appears to be a general apathy which hangs like an oppressive cloud over the entire place. Essentially it’s the apathy which I feel to be the problem and I’m baffled that more hasn’t been done to address it.

In my role as relief Community Development Employment Project officer, I may actually be able to do something to get the place cleaned up a bit, by allocating clean up tasks to be jobs. However I am warned that there is considerable resistance to boring clean up jobs, understandably. Since it’s really a cultural issue anyway, that is the area that I am most interested in affecting anyway, rather than applying a band-aid to a continuing problem. I’d like to figure out if or how the community people themselves want to change things and then help them achieve that.

I’ll see what scope I have to do some comprehensive community consultation and see where that leads. I think I’d really appreciate that process actually.

Those issues had be a bit down for a while.

On the up side, I went out to the local salt lakes about 15kms north on the weekend and was touched by the simple beauty of relatively untouched land and the profound silence out there. Only some birds and some wind make sounds out there and they add to the silence rather than detracting from it somehow.

My mind stretched to imagine what it would be like growing up your entire life never hearing any other sounds than that of the country, animals and a few people. And never seeing or touching anything that wasn’t entirely natural and of the earth.

That’s what we’ve lost.

I guess I had “thought” about it on many occasions in the past, but to be sitting there actually looking at and feeling the reality of the landscape and the knowledge that I was living in a community of people who actually used to do just that changed something. It’s not just theory anymore. It’s something that I think is incomprehensible while sitting in a technological hub like Melbourne.

Somehow, being out there on the land and appreciating it’s beauty and thinking those thoughts made the problems in the community feel far less important. Perhaps it’s a bit like heroin addicts letting everything else turn to shit, so long as they can have their hit. Perhaps the country is so important to the people that the crappy community is just a slight inconvenience endured for the sake of being in the land.

But I don’t buy that completely. How can only the land outside the community be valued? If you love the land, how can you at the same time trash it like they do?

Nevertheless, the profound beauty of the country gave me perspective and also inspiration and I guess a cause to fight for or reason to fight.

The other awesome project going on here is the art project. Every day several old folk sit around for hours and hours and work on their paintings dot by dot by dot by dot. Brad pointed out how similar the earth actually looked to some of their art. No wonder. It’s just just hanging around where they are painting. It’s very peaceful. And the paintings are stunning.

So, here are a few images, mainly of the land.

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